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August - September 2009
Political will needed to strengthen India’s judicial system - Chief Justice of India
by Vijay Goel
London: Noting that the overall social indicators of access to justice in India are quite disappointing, Chief Justice of India, K G Balakrishnan said that political will is needed if some meaningful progress is to be made in the country's judicial system.
Emphasising the paradox in the system, Chief Justice Balakrishnan said , “Even though the judicial system has been tackling a continuously rising case-load, the overall social indicators of access to justice are quite disappointing.
The Limited reach of the justice-delivery system is especially worrisome in light of frequent reports of vigilante justice being meted out by local communities, often through informal bodies.”
Inaugurating a two-day International Conference of Jurists on 'Judicial Reforms' at the Crown Plaza Hotel here, Chief Justice Balakrishnan presented an overview of the Indian Judicial system, the immense backlong of cases pending before Courts at all levels and said “The problem in this regard is that the creation of more courts at the district level depends on the initiative and financial commitments from the respective state governments, whereas the administration of the higher judiciary is the responsibility of the central government.”
“Most State governments have been hesitant to commit resources for the expansion of the lower judiciary. This lack of political will needs to be highlighted if some meaningful progress is to be made in strengthening our judicial system.
“While it is understandable that thousands of newer courts cannot be created overnight, the State Governments must identify time-bound targets in this regard.”
The conference, organised by International Council of Jurists and the Society of Lincoln's Inn, was attended among others by Justice Awn S. Al-Khasaneh, Judge, International Court of Justice, Justice Min Bahadur, Rayamjhee, Chief Justice of Nepal, Ram Jethamalani, MP, Former Minister for Law, Justice and Company Affairs of India, Dr Adish C. Aggarwala, President, International Council of Jurists, Justice K S Radhakrishnan, chief justice of Gujarat High Court, and judges from several developed and developing countries.
Ram Jethmalani said that terrorism, one of the 11 subjects on the agenda, was the most important issue facing the society.
Noting that terrorists were invoking God for "all their filty things," Jethmalani said military action, as in Pakistan, was necessary but “what is necessary is demolition of their indoctrination that the God is on their side.”
“It is a menace that is threatening the survival of civilisation. Terrorists have been indoctricated that God is on their side.”
He wanted the Conference to discuss how to tackle this “great menace affecting the world peace." He said democracies of the world should pool "all their material and spiritual resources in meeting this menace.”
Dr Adish Aggarwala, President, International Council of Jurists and Chairman, All India Bar Association, said the Conference has been organised to discuss the urgent need for judicial reforms to keep pace with the rapid changes taking place in the global economy and to re-examine the constantly evolving role of the Judiciary so as to be responsive to the needs of society.
“An independent, efficient and accountable Judiciary is the hallmark of a working democracy which rests on the principle of checks and balances.”
Aggarwala said, “It is notable that while new laws are being framed at a considerable speed, the capacity to enforce these laws has not met expectations in many countries.”
He suggested that “the judiciary must rise to the occasion to strengthen the arms of the State in combating the problem of terrorism while maintaining the rule of law and protection of human rights.”
Aggarwala said some of Indian delegates could not participte in the Conference on account of strict immigration norms of UK and the swine flue.
Vijay Goel, Partner Singhania & Co, founder of Indo-European Business Forum, speaking on Media in a Democracy, said, “At times the media does not always live up to the ideal - hobbled by stringent laws - monopolistic ownership - and sometimes - the threat of brute force. Serious reporting is difficult to sustain in competitive media markets that put a premium on the shallow and sensational."
“Moreover”, he continued, “the media are sometimes used as proxies in the battle between rival political groups. In these cases the media contribute to public cynicism and democratic decay. The media should take extra care in such cases to ensure that the people are provided with true and unbiased information to enable them make an informed decision.”
Presenting an overview of the Indian judicial system, Chief Justice Balakrishnan said that the Indian judicial system consisted of about sanctioned strength of 16,685 judges in the subordinate courts, 886 judges in the High courts and 31 judges in the Supreme Court of India.
“The foremost problem is the immense backlog of cases pending before our courts at all levels”, he said, adding “This increase in the volume of litigation can be attributed to improvements in education, socio-economic progress and better awareness of legal rights.”